Environmental Film Festival Presents THE FALCONER Profiling DC Native Master Falconer Rodney Stotts by DCEFF
23 February 2021
The 2021 Environmental Film Festival in the Nation’s Capital (March 18-28) will present the East Coast premiere of The Falconer, a story of empowerment through nature that profiles the work of Washington, D.C. native Rodney Stotts, one of very few Black Master Falconers in the U.S.
Directed by D.C. native Annie Kaempfer, the film follows Stotts as he strives to provide his community’s underserved youth and endangered raptors with a safe haven for mutual healing and growth. Rodney Stotts never planned to become an environmentalist. Growing up in Southeast Washington, D.C., he seemed destined for a life of drugs and street violence. A former drug dealer, inmate, single father, drive-by-shooting victim, and survivor of the crack epidemic, he left that life behind when he joined the Earth Conservation Corps, an organization that involves young people from vulnerable communities in cleaning up their local rivers and habitat to encourage wildlife restoration. Discovering a love of birds along the way, Stotts developed a passion for the art and sport of Falconry.
The film presents an intimate portrait of Rodney and his dream of building a bird sanctuary so he can share his love of birding with the next generation. Acting as his own narrator, he discusses his work as a licensed Master Falconer, his environmental work with the Earth Conservation Corps, which was responsible for bringing the bald eagle back to the Anacostia, and the creation of his Oak Hill Raptor Center, in Laurel, Md., where youth from Rodney’s stressed community learn about raptors, nature, and personal responsibility. The film shows Stotts as he and his youthful helpers from the Capital Guardian Youth ChalleNGe Academy, run by the D.C. National Guard, begin the demanding work of refurbishing a hundred-year-old dairy barn to create the Raptor Center. His goals are to protect raptors, heal and release them, take care of the birds that are non-releasable, teach young people about caring for the birds and their natural environment, and for a few, how to become falconers.
"All this is healing. All this is medicine. All this changes who you are,” – says Stotts.
This documentary is a story of second chances: for the injured birds-of-prey in Rodney’s care, for young people who bear the brunt of social and environmental injustice, and for Rodney himself. Directed by Annie Kaempfer and produced by Annie Kaempfer and William Stefan Smith, the film was edited by Jason Pollard and Juliet Weber. The Falconer was made possible through the assistance of a grant from the Spike Lee Fellowship Fund.
Annie Kaempfer is an independent filmmaker whose work has screened at festivals, including Mill Valley, Big Sky and Twin Cities. Her feature debut, The Falconer, won Best Environmental Feature at BendFilm, a Special Jury Prize at Cinema on the Bayou, and is set to air on PBS’s “America Reframed” in 2021. A Spike Lee Fellowship and Alan Landsburg Documentary Award recipient, Annie graduated from NYU Tisch School of the Arts with an MFA in Filmmaking. She brings a collaborative spirit, devotion to aesthetics, and focus on real-world impact to all her film projects. Annie serves on the Board of the Environmental Film Festival in the Nation’s Capital and has consulted for the Ford Foundation, JustFilms and FotoDC. Annie was born in Washington, D.C. and lived in London and Maine before settling in Brooklyn with a lawyer/musician, one small child, and an overly exuberant rescue Saint Bernard.
The free screening, presented in collaboration with THEARC (Town Hall Education Arts Recreation Campus) in southeast D.C., will be followed by a discussion with Rodney Stotts, Corina Newsome, cofounder of Black Birders' Week, and filmmaker Annie Kaempfer.
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